Dear Parishioners and friends,
Our church buildings will remain closed until further notice. As this is the case, I offer you a recorded and written reflection here which outlines some of my thinking over these last three months.
For the audio version of these reflections please click here
28 March 2021
Welcome to Holy Week, the most important week in the Christian calendar. Though much is made of the birth of the Christ-child, in reality, Christmas is to Christians what an engagement is to the bridal couple. Though definitely an occasion for joy, it is merely the announcement that the event most worthy of rejoicing in is soon to come. Yes, our anticipated hero, Jesus, has arrived, but He is not yet Christ the Saviour until He has accomplished what He came to do: destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
This guide is my invitation for you to take a personal journey into the last week of Jesus’s life before His death and resurrection. While the exact order of events during Holy Week is debated by biblical scholars, this represents an approximate outline of major events of the most holy days on the Christian calendar. Follow along with the steps of Jesus Christ from Palm Sunday through Resurrection Sunday.
Palm Sunday: Hosanna
In Daniel 9, we are told that it would be 483 years (of Jewish 360-day years) from the command to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2) to the coming of the Anointed One – known as the Messiah in Hebrew and the Christ in Greek — the Ruler. From both biblical texts and historical records, we know this command was issued on 14 March 445 bc. Exactly 483 years later —173,880 days —brings us to 6 April 45 ad. On that Sunday, Jesus began His trip to Jerusalem, knowing that soon He would lay down His life for our sins.
Nearing the village of Bethphage, Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead, telling them to look for a donkey and its unbroken colt, untie the animals, and bring them to Him. Then Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling also the 550 year-old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The people of God had long been awaiting a saviour. God had promised that He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. By doing just that, Jesus was intentionally proclaiming that He is the very King that God had promised. The crowds welcomed Him by waving palm branches in the air and shouting, “... Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father, David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9–10) Hosanna is an emphatic plea for help. It can be translated as “Save us, Lord, we beg!” Reflect on your need for Him, then pray your own prayer of “Hosanna” to God.
It is a sobering fact to realise that those who shouted “Hosanna” along the road would soon be shouting “Crucify Him” in Pilate’s court. How fickle is our faith? How quickly do we turn from praise to denial? The irony in those who first shouted “Hosanna” who then called out “Crucify Him” is explained in the reason Jesus was entering the city in the first place. Jesus knew He was heading for the cross when He entered the city. Therefore, in order to be the people’s Hosanna – the one who would save them – it was necessary that first He would have to become the crucified one.
See the mind of Christ as He entered Jerusalem through these verses in Luke 18:31-33: And taking the twelve, He said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.”
Read about Jesus' triumphal entry as recorded in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.
Jesus and His disciples spent the night in Bethany, a town about two miles east of Jerusalem. This is where Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, lived. Close friends of Jesus, they likely hosted Him and His disciples during their final days in Jerusalem.
Spend a few minutes in prayer. Consider, lament, and confess the ways you have abandoned Jesus with your actions and words even after praising Him with your lips. Determine to change (that is, to repent). Thank Jesus for His commitment, for loving us so much that He entered Jerusalem knowing that He was riding to His death. Thank Him for His love, for answering our cries of “Hosanna” with His great act of sacrificial love.
For those who would like, there are palms for Palm Sunday and for Holy Week in Saint Matthias Church in Ballydehob. Please feel free to collect palm crosses there.
Holy Monday: Fig Tree
The following morning, Jesus returned with His disciples to Jerusalem. Along the way, He cursed a fig tree because it had failed to bear fruit. Arriving at the temple, Jesus found the courts full of corrupt money changers. As He had the day before, He began overturning their tables and clearing the temple. While not so dramatic as the righteous disruption of inappropriate and self-serving activities in the temple, today we will focus on Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:19-21; Mark 11:13-14, 20-21).
“... seeing a fig tree by the wayside, He went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again! …” (Matthew 21:19)
To truly make sense of what otherwise seems rather like a senseless fit of temper, it is important to understand a horticultural certainty: fig trees bear fruit prior to coming into leaf. Therefore, leaves on a fig tree are a sure sign that the fruit is present and ready. However, the outward appearances of this particular tree belied the truth: it was, in fact, barren.
The fig tree is as much about the state of Israel’s salvation as it is about the timing of all salvation. This condemnation of the fig tree’s barrenness was a symbolic cursing of the sin and apostasy of Israel. Throughout the generations, God had reached out to Israel and called them into covenant with Him, yet Israel constantly showed themselves to be unfaithful and, therefore, barren. Though adorned with the trappings of God’s favour and God’s blessing, their hearts lacked trust in God; they were dead to the root. They outwardly claimed to know the Lord, but inwardly knew Him not.
Take a moment to let Jesus’s lesson sink in: having the trappings and signs of fruit, but not actually bearing any at all. God’s Word is the seed planted in us… if nourished and tended properly, there should be fruit evident to all. It is a sobering fact to realise that we would be in no better position than the condemned and cursed fig tree. Jesus is the judge of this world whose word is final and unchangeable. God granted Him the position of judge and proved His appointment by raising Him from the dead.
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)
See in this verse how we stand before Christ our judge: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
At the appointed time, Jesus came to earth and, in the fullness of time, Jesus will return. The only judge who holds the world accountable has interceded for us. The judge has become our advocate. Spend a few minutes in prayer. Consider and confess how the fruit of God’s word is not always evident in your words and actions. Thank Jesus for His loving act of intervention and that He is a merciful judge.
Luke’s gospel tells us that during this week, Jesus was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests, scribes and elders sought to destroy Him. On Monday evening, Jesus stayed in Bethany again. Read about Monday's events in Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:12–19, Luke 19:45-48
Holy Tuesday: Jesus is Anointed
On Tuesday morning, Jesus and His disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the now withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke about the importance of faith (Matthew 20:21; Mark 11:22-23).
Have faith in God. Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he saith cometh to pass; he shall have it. Therefore I say unto you, All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:22-26)
Back at the Temple, Jesus teaches the crowds using several parables. The chief priests, scribes and elders question Jesus about His authority. In what is often referred to as the Temple Debates, they attempt to outwit Him with several questions intended to expose Him as a heretic, seeking an excuse to place Him under arrest. Jesus deftly evaded their traps and pronounced harsh judgment on them.
Later that afternoon, Jesus and His disciples left the city for the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem. All during this week, Jesus was preparing His disciples, reinforcing what He had been teaching them, that they might be fully equipped for carrying on after His crucifixion. Here, Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end time events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment. He shared several more parables with them at this time.
That evening, having returned to Bethany to stay the night once again, a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume while He and the disciples are dining with a man Jesus had previously cured. Afterwards, Judas went off alone to the chief priests to negotiate the betrayal of Jesus into their hands.
As we continue preparing our hearts, today is a good day to pause and look at the action and the heart of this woman who anointed Jesus before His death.
See in this verse a stark contrast to the heart of Judas Iscariot: Now, when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and poured it on His head as He reclined at table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? This could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me. In pouring this ointment on My body, she has done it to prepare Me for burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:14-16)
This unnamed woman is a wonderful picture of a heart poured out upon the Lord: A heart spent on Him. A heart with priorities right. A heart that does not cling to material things. A heart that honours Jesus with her all. This woman had no idea that this seemingly isolated act of devotion served a larger plan in the purposes of God, until Jesus told everyone. What was in her heart came forth in her deeds.
Take a moment to reflect on what your own deeds say. Your words? What is it you treasure in your heart? Is your heart like this woman's toward Jesus? Do you honour Jesus with your all? The disciples protested that this ointment could have been put to "better use." People might object to the extent that you listen to and follow Jesus. Or maybe your own heart begins to object. Are you ever tempted to think that you have wasted your devotion on the Lord? Or your time in prayer? Nothing done in right devotion to the Lord Jesus is ever lost or wasted, while — ironically — the greatest amount of money given to the poor from wrong motives is not worth a penny in the eyes of heaven.
Spend a few minutes in prayer: Heavenly Father, search my heart. Try me and show me what and who I worship. I want to worship You and You alone. I confess that I treasure… (confess what you treasure in your heart in place of Christ). I confess that I don't take time in prayer because...(confess what takes priority over prayer). Help me lay down all of my fears and reprioritise You in my heart. Help me pour out all I am and all I have for You. You alone are worthy of all of my worship. Amen.
Read about Tuesday’s events in Matthew 21:23 - 26:18; Mark 11:20–14:11; and Luke 20:1–22:6.
Holy Wednesday: Judas Iscariot
The Bible doesn't say what the Lord did on the Wednesday, though the Luke reports that Jesus spent time each day of the week at the Temple and that people came early in the morning to hear Him teach (Luke 21:37-38). He also would have been healing those who came to Him, as we see in Matthew 21:14.
On this Wednesday, Matthew reports the chief priests and elders assembled at the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas, to plot the arrest and killing of Jesus (Matthew 26:1-5). This followed the meeting with Judas that took place the previous evening, and it is worth taking a closer look at what happened there. We read in Mark 14:10-11: And Judas Iscariot, he that was one of the twelve, went away unto the chief priests, that he might deliver Him unto them. And they, when they heard it, were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently deliver him unto them.
After the woman in Bethany (Luke says it was Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha) anointed Jesus with oil, John’s Gospel identifies Judas as the apostle who objected, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:5-6)
Satan found a foothold in Judas’ heart because of his love of money. The final straw for Judas was seeing a year’s worth of wages, some of which he might have been able to slip into his own pocket, poured out in oil on Jesus. Jesus’ usefulness to Judas had clearly reached an end. With all this talk of dying, and this blatant misuse of resources, Judas was finished following the Lord.
Take a moment to search your heart. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you of the ways in which you find Christ more useful than worshipful. If His usefulness towards your plans is perceived to be worn out, would you walk away too? Would you also betray Him, siding with those who have not understood Him?
Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Exodus 21:32 states that this was the price of a slave. Imagine! Jesus was sold for the price of a slave by one of those closest to Him. It is sobering to realise that, like Judas, we, too, have betrayed Jesus by walking away, disbelieving, possibly mocking, and certainly sinning — usually for much less than 30 pieces of silver.
The irony of Judas’s action is that he himself was a slave under sin when he sold Jesus to the high priests. Not just Judas, but all humanity had been sold into slavery to sin from the moment in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve betrayed God by believing that He was not as useful to them as the serpent could be. Like Adam and Eve, we do not have one piece of silver worth enough to buy back our freedom.
See the difference between what we earn as slaves and what we are given as believers in what Christ has done for us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Through our own misguided deeds, we line our pockets with blood money that buys only death. But because of the death bought by Judas’ betrayal, we have received instead eternal life as a free gift.
Though these events happened in hidden meetings, Jesus was not taken by surprise. Old Testament prophesy proves everything occurred according to God’s plan and foreknowledge. What happens in the dark will come to the light. What man contrives in secret will be brought to God’s clear and final ends.
Pray: Merciful God, I bless You for loving me though I constantly betray You. Replace my fear of man — of what he might think or say about me — with a focused love for You. Drive out the ways I seek to use You by opening my eyes to all the reasons I have to worship You. Thank You that all the evil acts done in the dark will ultimately be worked out for Your good in the light. All my trust is in You. Amen.
Read about Judas’ betrayal in Matthew 26: 14-16; Mark 14: 1-2; and Luke 22: 1-2.
Maundy Thursday: A New Commandment
Holy Week takes a somber turn on this day, often referred to as Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum novum meaning “new commandment.”
From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the upper room in Jerusalem to make preparations for the Passover feast (Matthew 26:17-19). Before supper, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:2-5). and explained to them: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
At first, it seems strange that, at this late date, Jesus is issuing a new commandment. Yet this command to love your neighbour is not in itself new, rather, it’s the way we are to love that is new. In the old covenant, we love our neighbour as ourselves. You shall not take vengeance nor bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). In the new covenant, we love our neighbours as Jesus loved us.
Jesus took the command of love from the Old Testament and raised it to a new level. No longer are we to love others inasmuch as we are capable of loving ourselves. Instead, we love them as Jesus loved us. In other words, we are both to humble our selves and to elevate the other. This love is perfectly and ultimately shown in the cross of Jesus Christ. The mindset necessary to love others this way is ours in Christ (Philippians. 2:5). The fullest way we can love someone is by pointing them to how Jesus has loved them because no matter how much we lay down our lives, no sacrifice but Jesus’ can save them.
Consider the sobering fact that those of us who have been served by the only One to whom all service is due, have failed to serve others though we claim the name of Jesus. How proud are our hearts? How quick are we to receive the service of God yet refuse, begrudge, or neglect to serve others?
Thank Jesus for loving you so much that He took the form of a servant and served to the point of death. Praise Him for His sacrifice. Honour Him for showing you such an impossible and unprecedented love that He put your life before His.
Pray: God of true love, You have shown us what real love looks like. You, who owed service to no one and had no one above You, became lower than the least of us in order to serve all of us. You have called me to love others as You love me. Teach me, Lord, to love in that way. Amen.
As the Lamb of God, Jesus was soon to fulfil the meaning of Passover by giving Himself in place of the usual lambs of the field. These were sacrificed at many and various times to atone for sin, but Jesus’ blood, shed in sacrifice, freed us once and for all from sin and eternal death. During this Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus established the Holy Eucharist, or Communion, when He instructed them to continually remember His sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20).
After supper, Jesus and His disciples left the upper room for the Garden of Gethsemane, where Luke 22:44 says He prayed until "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Later that evening in Gethsemane, away from the crowds that had flocked to Jerusalem for the Passover, Judas Iscariot led the Sanhedrin to Jesus (Matthew 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47). He was arrested and taken to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the council had gathered to build their case against Jesus.
Read about the Last Supper and the arrest of Jesus in Matthew 26:17–46, Mark 14:12-41, Luke 22:7-46, and John 13:1 - 17:26.
Good Friday: The Crucifixion
In the first hours of Friday, as Jesus' trial was underway, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed to announce the dawn. Judas Iscariot was overcome with remorse for having betrayed Jesus and hanged himself. Before 9am (the third hour), Jesus had endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, He was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most horrible and shameful methods of punishment.
Before Jesus was led away, soldiers spat on Him, tormented and mocked Him, and shoved a crown of thorns on His head, which pierced His scalp. Jesus then shouldered His own cross and dragged it to Calvary where, again, He was mocked and insulted as Roman soldiers nailed Him to the wooden cross.
At about noon (the sixth hour), darkness covered the land. The cause is unknown and irrelevant because there is deeper meaning: the darkness of sin had reached its zenith. Between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon (the ninth hour), Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34). These were not words blurted out spontaneously; Jesus was invoking Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)
This is a mighty mystery and a weighty word: the Son of God forsaken by God the Father. Jesus could not have been cut out of the eternal Trinity. Nor could He have been out of His Father’s love or unsupported by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, He was truly forsaken. He did not just feel forsaken but was forsaken. He became sin, bore the curse, and drank the full cup of God’s wrath.
Imagine the weight of that. Try to wrap your mind around the Son of God becoming sin, the ultimate blessing taking the ultimate curse and the true judge willingly receiving undeserved wrath. Jesus did not bear some faint relation to sinners. He was made a sinner. He was numbered with the transgressors. The holy Son of God stood as a condemned man before His holy Father. For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Not only was Jesus numbered among the sinners; He became sin for us. Jesus became sin, condemned to bear its curse. He had no cover. Nothing could be offered as His expiation. No one could serve as His advocate. To win our freedom, He had to bear all, and God would not — could not — spare Him. The ransom had to be paid.
As Jesus was on the cross, He was experiencing, in one tiny point in space, and in one tiny moment in time, all that sin deserved. In His human nature, He suffered the fury of hell. But then, suddenly, it was over. The sacrifice was complete.
We would never have been able to say the words Jesus said as He died some time between 3 and 4 o’clock, “It is finished (John 19:30).” Instead, the only thing our works earn us is death. Jesus, as the sinless sacrifice, was not paying for His sins, but for the sins of all who choose to believe in Him. He finished the work we never could.
Reflect on the stunning truth that the perfect Son of God became sin for your sake. Pray your own prayer of awe and thankfulness to Jesus. Acknowledge what He has done, accept that He did it for you, and rejoice in His act of love, letting it set you free. Thank Him for finishing the work of paying for sin by accepting death so that you might live in His blessings.
By 6 o’clock Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body down from the cross and lay it in the tomb that Joseph had purchased for his own family’s use.
Read about Jesus’ trials and torments, His crucifixion and burial in Matthew 26:47 - 27:61; Mark 14:43 - 15:55; Luke 22:47 - 23:49; and John 18:2 - 19:37.
Holy Saturday: Death Conquered
Jesus' body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. The body of Jesus was in the tomb, but the spirit of Jesus went elsewhere.
Sheol, the City of Death, was the destination for all the dead, but it was not the same for all. There were two locations within Sheol separated by a large chasm: The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side…between [them] a great chasm [had been] fixed (Luke 16:22-23, 26).
Sheol was a place for all the dead, including Jesus. But Jesus did not go to Sheol as one defeated, He went there to conquer. Whereas the sin of Adam and Eve was passed down to every one of man’s descendants, Jesus was begotten of God. He had never been enslaved to sin. His death for our sins gave Him entry into Sheol, but He was innocent and didn’t belong. He ripped the doors off their hinges. He ransomed the Old Testament faithful and led them to Paradise, the Third Heaven, to be with Him. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me (Psalm 49:15).
Take a moment to consider: It is sobering to realise how little we think of death when Jesus went through so much to rescue us from it. How rarely do we celebrate His victory over the grave? How often do we take life for granted and spend days without thanking Jesus for our future with Him? Confess and discontinue taking life for granted, overlooking your freedom from death.
We know Jesus did not need to go into Hades and be tortured for us because He said, “It is finished” on the cross. Instead, He brought Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and all the faithful up to a place He called Paradise. One of the criminals on Jesus’ side said, “...Jesus, remember Me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise (Luke 23:42-43).”
We are not meant to dwell with Jesus in Paradise as spirits. We were created to be embodied spirits. Death separates the spirit from the body; this is one of its greatest tragedies, but when Jesus returns, our spirits will be rejoined with our new glorified bodies. Death itself will be thrown into a full and final Hell and we will experience spirit-embodied life with Jesus forever.
Pray: Jesus, I thank You that there is nowhere You won’t go to rescue me. You descended into the depths of the grave and beyond in order to bring freedom. Thank You that You did not abandon Your creation to Sheol, but entered Sheol to bring Your creation to Your side. Help me to live in the freedom You have bought, seeking to do Your will and not mine. Amen.
When the Sabbath ended at 6 pm, Jesus' body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus: He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish custom, they wrapped Jesus' body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth (John 19: 39-40).
Like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, the very court that had condemned Jesus to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community. Similarly, both were deeply affected by the death of Jesus. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realise that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus' body and prepared it for burial.
While His physical body hung on the cross, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. While His physical body lay in the tomb, He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation:
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Read about the burial of Jesus in Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15: 42-47; Luke 23: 50-56; and John 19: 38-42.
Jesus, the Risen Christ, has fulfilled His promise. Jesus really is Life in Abundance! This Resurrection Sunday is the first day of the week, and it commemorates the first day in the rest of our eternal lives with and in God. Jesus opened the gates to God’s eternal promise, that where He has gone, we may follow (John 14:3-6).
Jesus’ LIFE proclaims for us that eternity starts now (John 17:3; John 10:27-28)! “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Of those who have considered what eternity is, many have spoken about it as a far-off future event. This is partly true. Eternity has no end, so its future is far off, farther off than any of us can imagine. The part of eternity that is often overlooked is that eternity has no beginning. When we enter into God’s eternal promise manifested in Jesus, our whole life changes, and it changes for the entirety of our lives, from its very beginning to its ending. Participating in God’s eternal promise is what Easter is all about. It is the highlight of the Christian year. This eternal promise given to you in Jesus means that your whole life is transformed, because Jesus, who willingly bore all human sinfulness and sickness, who was nailed to a cross, who hung outside in the open elements until He died, who was sealed in a tomb, Jesus has risen from the dead and opened the gates of death (Luke 23:26 - 24:7; Romans 6; 1 Peter 2:21-24).
It is commonly accepted that Jesus’ physical body was broken. Jesus’ physical body was so damaged that He could no longer share this world with those of us confined to the physical laws of nature. There would be no more meals featuring Him as an honoured guest. There would be no more open air teaching, preaching, or healing where Jesus would command crowds as He had when He walked among the people. Seeing the broken body of Jesus convinced many (even some of His closest followers) that His life became a broken promise.
It took Jesus’ broken body to allow God to break through human reasoning once and for all (Romans 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 10:3-7; Philippians 2:5). Breaking open human understanding with God’s eternal wisdom (Jesus) is the first step in entering God’s eternal plan designed especially for you (1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 1 Corinthians 2:9).
Part of God’s eternal promise for our salvation was the revelation that He has a promised land for us. To fully enter the eternal life-giving truth of Christ, it is very advantageous to understand what God means by a promised land. While often defined by its physical trappings of geography and people, the promised land is more authentically defined as life lived in union with God. Life in the promised land is accessed through the door of humble submission to Him. We read in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, that God promises the Israelites (those people who have been struggling with God) that they will be entering into a land of promise. In order to walk into that land of promise, the Israelites were to submit to God and accept the plan that He established for them.
When the people of Israel submitted to God’s plan, and did not allow their circumstantial concerns to distract them, they were upheld and lived. They not only lived, but they flourished and prospered. In Psalm 10:12 we read, “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.” Submitting to God requires us first to humble our hearts so that God can prepare them to hear and to respond to His call.
Contrarily, when the people of Israel decided to do things their own way, when they refused to submit to God’s plan, they repeatedly walked into sure and certain death. Turning their backs on God’s promise, they took His abundant blessings and reduced them to limited physical possessions. God’s Word reveals that when people do not submit to Him, they reduce “life” to a self-centred and selfish existence, losing their lives along the way. In Psalm 10:4, we read, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts.”
Throughout the Christian world, many people for over a dozen centuries have made a declaration to God called the suscipe. This Latin word is translated as “uphold,” “receive,” and “take.” The suscipe is lifted directly from Psalm 119:116 and reads, “uphold me according to Your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!” This declaration is the act of submitting one’s life to God, because outside of God and outside God’s promise of life, there is no real life. Yes, a person can exist outside of submission to God, but the fullness of life is always found in God. So submitting to God and telling God to take your life is the doorway through which any person enters God’s promised land, and His hope for us His people.
God’s eternal promise and everlasting Love for us is so great that He is never satisfied to leave anybody entombed by their selfish desires or the selfish desires of others (John 3:16; Jeremiah 29:11). His plan is to lead people from the tombs that entrap them through the threshold into LIFE without limits (John 10:10). Jesus fulfilled God’s eternal promise by His obedience and His willingness to walk honestly and humbly in submission to God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11). In submitting Himself to the will of His Father, Jesus committed His life willingly as a sacrifice for the sake of all Life, that God’s people would be restored to Him (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16). Jesus’ submission to God allowed Him to demonstrate to us that a life lived for the flesh will never profit, it is the Life lived in God’s Spirit that profits and bears fruit that lasts (John 6:63; John 15:5).
When Jesus hung and died on the cross, His disciples were disheartened. On that morning after the Sabbath observance, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, went courageously to the tomb, likely with their eyes full of tears over the loss (Mark 16:1-8). It was early in the morning when they walked on that first day of the week, carrying spices for the body of Jesus. They like, the other followers, were mourning and coming to terms with the gruesome reality of Jesus’ death. Perhaps, like most of us in the days following such a loss, they wondered where had Jesus gone? And for that matter, where had God gone? These women, filled with sadness and loss, were fully expecting to find the lifeless body of Jesus. Yet what they found rocked their world, and continues to rock our world to the present. Jesus is alive, and more, the truth of life is no longer bound up by physical or circumstantial realities, but according to God’s desires. “O death, where is thy sting? O, grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)”
In Jesus’ resurrection, the boundaries of life are changed. No longer are they determined by physical years, but by an eternal and unfettered relationship with God. Do you desire to be free of a life that has fettered you; a life chained to broken realities and hopelessness? Today is the day to enter into life lived with God. Make a choice to follow Jesus and to walk away from whatever entombs you.
Happy Easter! Jesus really is Life in Abundance! We join confidently in the abundant life and eternal promise given to us by God and we pray, “uphold me according to your promise, that I may live” as Jesus, the Risen Christ, has fulfilled God’s promise in us today. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).” Amen.
May God bless you and all those you know,
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